Personal Relativity

Yesterday was “one of those days,” as we like to say. It’s not that anything went wrong, far from it in fact, but it was a work day which seemed to drag on for longer than it should. Why is it that the evenings and weekends seem to rush us by, like they are only half-days and yet sometimes workdays seem to have hours that contain ninety minutes instead of their allotted sixty, and you can almost hear the second hand of the clock drag itself from one digit to another?

I guess it’s a subtle form of relativity – although in this case it’s not time passing at different rates for two people in different places, but rather one person experiencing time in two different states of mind. Good times rush us by whilst the more mundane days drag.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, sometimes we even find things to support our self-inflicted mood and keep us in that state (or at least I do). Sometimes this can even be with objects that are meant to inspire us, which is perhaps yet another form of relativity. By way of example, I give you the recently decorated “inspiration wall” of our building. This is meant to reinforce our corporate ideals and keep us all aligned to the work we do.

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Strangely, the one word that jumped out at me from the wall yesterday was the following:

160305_WallWords1
I know it was meant to portray an unstoppable drive to a goal, or some such meaning, but yesterday it seemed an appropriate adjective to sum up a slow day.

~Richard

Leap Day 2016

How are you going to spend your extra day today?  Given that February 29th only occurs once every four years we really should celebrate it more than simply enjoying a google doodle of a friendly fluffle of bouncing bunnies, yet we don’t. In fact for most of us it’s just an extra day at work.

So perhaps we should take a little time out of our extra work day and consider what leaps we, as individuals, should be taking. For example, is there some decision or activity that you have been putting off because you couldn’t face it? It could be something as mundane as completing your taxes, or something much more important such as calling someone you haven’t spoken to for a long time, re-establishing a connection with a friend or relative, or dealing with a difficult situation closer to home.

Quit procrastinating – now is the time to make that leap and do it!

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I think this is a concept we should embrace, at least once every 4 years! Go on, what’s the worst thing that could happen?

Leap!

~Richard

#LeapForward

 

All You Need is Love

 

Yes, today is the day to celebrate lurve… or so we are told. Quite why we cannot share love for the rest of the year is beyond me, but I guess this day at least provides a focal point for this emotion. In the “old” days, when I was a youth, Valentine’s Day was a day when sweethearts connected with cards, flowers, chocolates, and dinner. These days it appears that valentine greetings are appropriate for any member of your extended family, friends and even pets. This year we were even asked by our school district to send valentine wishes to our kids’ teachers, in a desperate attempt to raise funds. Personally, I found that request fairly disturbing, but then perhaps I am too much of a traditionalist – the lyrics to the Police’s classic, “Don’t stand so close to me” seemed to instantly fly into my head when I read the email.

So how did we get to today? Valentine’s Day really first emerged in the writings of one of the first authors to compose written works in English, Geoffrey Chaucer, best known for his wonderful collection, The Canterbury Tales, way back in the 14th Century. In another book, The Parlement of Foules, he celebrated the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia when he penned:

For this was on seynt Volantynys day

Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.    

The meaning of which roughly translates to “A gift was given on Valentine’s Day, when every bird chooses his mate”

However, given that mid February in England is way too early for birds to be mating it seems unlikely that he is referring to today’s date.  

Over the following centuries there were many other links of St Valentine to the expression of love, but it seems to have been the early 19th century where this exploded into the sending of amorous missives as handwritten notes and then the mass-produced cards that we know today. For some reason this activity struck a collective chord (perhaps even plucked a heart string) in the populace and today we spend an estimated $19 Billion (yep, you read that correctly) celebrating the day in the US alone. Is it no wonder that Hallmark, jewelers and even car manufacturers push this date down our throats almost as soon as the xmas trees are cleared away?

Anyhow, not wishing to rain on anyone’s parade, to use the modern vernacular: May you all have a very Happy Valentine’s Day wherever you are, whatever you do, and whomever you are spending it with, and that’s especially if you are on your own.

160214_LoveIsAllYouNeed

~Richard

Groundhog Day and Memories

Today is Groundhog Day! For those of us living in Pennsylvania it means it’s time when the State gets a little more air-time as the news crews descend upon the small town of Punxsutawney, PA where a poor old groundhog, designated as “Punxsutawney Phil” is dragged into the limelight from his home in the ludicrously named “Gobbler’s Knob” and, through some magical ceremony, prognosticates on whether Spring will be early or late.

The statistics of Phil’s accuracy are interesting and, with a 39% rate of being correct are significantly worse than chance. This being said, then I am assuming that we will have a long Winter this year since the unreliable rodent has opined that it will be an early Spring. Let’s see!

Of course the other famous Groundhog Day is the now classic 1993 film of the same name directed by Harry Ramis and starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. In my opinion this is much more fun! The idea of reliving the same day repeatedly but being able to alter it though your own behaviour is quite fascinating from a philosophical point of view. As Murray experiences in the film, after the initial shock and boredom wears off, there are myriad ways one can explore one’s own psyche as well as that of others. Now that is quite a fascinating concept. Imagine the ability to simply erase the mistakes of a day until, in the end you create what you consider to be your perfect day. Could you do it, or would you go mad trying?

I, on the other hand am going to approach this from a more mundane and blatant angle by posting one image below a link to a few images of the town where I spent some of my childhood many years ago.

160202_GroundhogDay

The number of days we kids spent roaming around and playing in this area, especially over the school holidays, meant that we were always searching for that “perfect day” and, although we wouldn’t have called it such, perhaps this was our own Groundhog day of sorts…  

~Richard

Politically Inspired Graphic Art

I have found the last several months of rhetoric, bombast, bigotry, and other political shenanigans that have poured forth during the run up to selection of political candidates for this year’s White House run to have been more depressing than usual. However, rather than simply getting angry, or demoralized I have used the time to inspire me to create some graphic art.

I make no public claim or overt political stand with this – the viewer can read into it whatever messaging s/he sees fit. Perhaps they would make for a good discussion too?

This is going to be a long year and I just needed to get this off my chest early in the game…

160129_GOPLiesFearThem

160129_GOPTee

~Richard

What’s happening to All the Young Dudes? They’re getting old…and dying, but that’s OK

Yesterday morning I heard that Dale Griffin had died at the age of 67. Although not a household name, I enlighten you. He was the drummer with the 70’s British band, Mott the Hoople, who are probably best known for their famous anthem, All the Young Dudes,” penned by David Bowie, which went on to become a staple song of the glam rock era. That’s right, David Bowie, who died only a few days earlier at the age of 69, only a few days after Ian “Lemmy” Kilmiser, at 70 years old. As I was contemplating this, I heard than Eagles co-founder, Glenn Frey, also died the same day at the same age as Dale Griffin.

My initial thought was WTF is happening to the musicians that shaped my youth? They’re dropping like flies! Who will be next? Given I have a fairly eclectic musical taste and I have already lost Frank Zappa, Ian Dury, Joe Strummer, and too many others to mention who provided background to my adolescent years and beyond, or possibly shaped it, it’s hard to say but one thing is for sure: this trend ain’t ever gonna stop.  After all, as the oft quoted adage goes: only two* things in life are certain – death and taxes. We can perhaps avoid or defer the latter but the first is unavoidable, even for the rich and famous.

160119_Guitar2

When I was much younger I would have probably made some smart-alec remark like, well they were old, what did you expect? But now I have grey hair and ache a bit more in the morning I seem to see it a little differently. Lemmy only made the traditional “three score years and ten” by a few days and the others didn’t quite get there. We live In an era where magazines espouse that “60 is the new 50,” life expectancy is generally rising, and people who we would originally classed as “the elderly” when I was a kid (i.e., people who are of retirement age) are now expected to have gym membership.

Perhaps we need to be reminded sometimes that it’s not the length of time we have lived but how we have lived and the impact we have made.

And look at the lives these guys led! They sure packed a lot of living into their time on earth. Being a rock star may be a hedonistic lifestyle,  but it’s also creative: listen to what they left for us. They represented different musical genres but they each allowed their millions of followers, be they angst-ridden teens, partying youths, or older adults to indulge in their creativity for a while. They made us smile, cry, and just think about life, the universe and everything, even if only for the length of a single song. We should celebrate that, and not dwell unnecessarily on their deaths.

160119_Guitar

So, as I bid farewell to these great artists I unashamedly steal some lyrics from the Hoople/Bowie song in celebration of how their musical legacies “carry the news (there you go)…”

 

 

 

~Richard

 

* or three, if you know the old adolescent joke, but that’s another story.

Strange Fruit, or why I would struggle to be a photojournalist

This is going to be a very weird post, and I hesitated to write it at first, but here goes; make of it what you will. It covers an incident on Jan 4th this year. It will not contain any images.

For reasons unknown I had had the sound of Billie Holiday’s haunting voice singing the classic song Strange Fruit buzzing around in my head on and off for a couple of days. If you are unfamiliar with this 1939 song, based on the 1937 poem by Abel Meeropol, I suggest you give it some time. It always gives me the chills, and with recent political activities and hate crimes it somehow seemed to stick in my head as the year’s first earworm, albeit an unusual one. I was replaying the song in my head as I was getting ready for the morning’s activities. 

Anyhow, it was the first school run of the new year and I was driving my daughter to school on my way to work when I noticed that there was a police car parked awkwardly at a local park with the children’s playground cordoned off with tape.

My daughter looks over and whispers hoarsely, “Oh my God, there’s a man hanging by the swings.” I ask her if she was sure and she says she is pretty sure of what she saw. We talk for a minute or so and I drop her off at school, after I confirm that she is ok after what she had briefly glimpsed.

I hesitate at the school and decide to come back past the park to see if she was indeed correct or whether it was some kind of prank, and I can clearly see a man dressed in black hanging from a rope in the swing set with his back to the road. It was a truly disturbing sight, and it is disturbing recalling it now, some two weeks later.

I didn’t really have time to think, only feel my emotions. Part of me felt quick sickened by the sight, part of me felt saddened by the fact that this poor man had been in such despair to do this to himself, and so publicly too. Also, part of me felt angry that he had not been covered up somehow, to at least afford him a modicum of dignity while all the time in the back of head was the sound of Billie Holiday’s voice.

However, there was also one other thought that had slipped into my conscious mind, much darker and very fleeting: should I stop and get a photograph? I dismissed this thought rapidly as I felt it would be an invasion of privacy, and trampling on tragedy, but I am ashamed to admit the thought was there nonetheless. I am quite shocked that I even thought of it and, to some extent, I even think that writing this blog post is a step in that direction, but I am, selfishly perhaps, justifying it to myself as a cathartic expression of my feelings.

As I continued on my journey to work, my mind was filled with conflicting ideas. I considered my own actions, or inaction, and considered what sort of person would be able to photograph such a scene. I thought immediately of Malcolm Browne‘s photograph of Quang Duc during his self-immolation in 1963, and of the Eddie Adam’s 1968 Saigon execution: Murder of a Vietcong by Saigon Police Chief. I am sure I would not have been able to photograph these tragic scenes, at least not without significant mental turmoil, and I wonder how such photojournalists can do what they do. They must truly be be remarkable individuals, made of stern stuff and truly driven by the ideal of portraying the truth.

As I listened to NPR on the car radio I was surprised to hear a report on how California is now allowing physician-assisted suicide.  This seemed to be a sad, but fitting end to my morning…

~Richard

Corporate Dreaming Redux

I normally only post once a day but for those of you who read my post from this morning I thought I would provide a condensed version of the 4-hour “show” I attended today.

Here goes:

When a problem occurs you should collect all the relevant facts, tell relevant people about it, try to figure out how to solve the problem, assign people to carry out actions that you identify, agree timelines, and finally, track the outcome.

There you go, I just saved you about 239 minutes. You’re welcome 🙂

~Richard

Corporate Dreaming – a perspective

Today my colleagues and I have the dubious pleasure of another 4 hour meeting with a group of management consultants who have been brought into our organization to tell us something. I am not entirely sure what we are supposed to gain from this exercise, as it wasn’t made clear during the first 2-day exercise, and a quick straw poll of several of my co-workers has revealed that they too are equally in the dark. However, as is often the case in such situations I am sure it will be seen as money well-spent by the corporation hierarchy. It baffles me how executive management of corporations are hailed as being successful managers and stewards of an organization when they need external consultants to do their job for them, but then as the old adage goes “no-one ever got fired for hiring McKinsey” (even when they do a poor job).

Anyhow, in an attempt to maintain my sanity in this ocean of madness what this means for me is that I have a credible excuse for posting some of my motivational irony that I have produced over the last couple of years, usually after similar exercises, so here goes:

Firstly, I am tired of seeing bombastic scribbles which proclaim just how important we are as individuals, and how we should embrace this thought. To me this somewhat misses the point. Yes, individuals are important but we are only one tiny part of a greater society. Perhaps we should be reminded of this more often, and perhaps our seemingly ever increasing proclivity to narcissism may be held in check. We should be able to deal with this perspective.

160114_narcissi

The other hackneyed rhetoric to which we are often subject is to “think outside the box”. This truly annoying phrase has been with us since the advent of the management consultant and apparently has links to the old “nine dot puzzle” which is occasionally rolled out as if it is some kind of magic trick. As someone who solved this the first time I saw it, it never ceases to amaze me how many people who are proponents of the out of the box concept struggle with this simple puzzle and its derivatives (yes it can be done with 3 lines and even one line as long as it’s on a sheet of paper (big hint there). Anyway, I digress. My antidote to this, as a Whovian, is the following poster:

Think Inside The Box

And finally, to summarize my view of the whole management consultant affair, I offer the following picture to consider if you too also have to deal with hour after hour of meaningless metaphors sprinkled with irrelevant platitudes:

160114_tplatitudes

[rant over!]

~Richard

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